Social Media Hasn’t Replaced TV Viewing, It’s Connected It

Sixteen years ago, academic and data geek Robert Putnam hit a national nerve with his essay “Bowling Alone” about our collective loss of ‘social capital.’  By 2000, he published a book expanding on his premise that Americans were growing disconnected from their families, communities and nation due to culture trends like two-career families and television, which reduce our participation in groups.

Dennis Ryan, Advertising, OlsonAn article posted to Ad Age yesterday might gladden Robert’s heart…somewhat. Despite DVR’s, the declines in live TV viewership over the past few years are reversing.  Appointment TV has made a resurgence as Facebook, Twitter and cell phone based social media outlets now drive live tune-ins.

Apparently, we still like to watch alone, but we link up as part of a larger social group through talking, texting, posting and commenting. As we watch, e like to gripe about the White Sox bullpen, seek explanations for the Bull’s careless ball handling and whine about the Blackhawks disappearing offense. Okay, maybe that’s just me but the point is we form very active, regularly scheduled communities around live television viewing.

Robin Sloan, who works with Twitter’s media-partnership groups says “If you look at the tweets about a TV show, a huge proportion come from when the show is airing live, not an hour later.” Tweets and status updates have a shelf life shorter than shredded cheese in a warm refrigerator; it’s all about commenting in the now.

And how much do we like to tweet?  At this year’s Super Bowl, the most-viewed TV event in history, viewers launched over 4,000 tweets per second in the game’s final minute, earning that game the highest volume of tweets for any sports event.

We may be alone physically, but not socially. A whopping 86% of mobile net users watch TV with their mobile devices. Further, the communities that form range from the very broad, like for the Super Bowl, to the very, very engaged, like the people who tweet and text about “Glee.”  “Glee” earned the Number 2 spot on Trendrr.TV which measures TV chatter across various social media, which sounds awesome for ratings.  Unfortunately, the show itself ranked 77th on Nielsen’s prime-time list.

So a cheesy show about awkward high school types inspires awkward types to tweet cheesily just like high school…  Hmm, that figures.

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By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Olson

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